Sunday, May 24, 2015

Loving the Lord with no strings attached



About four months ago, I had the incredible opportunity to learn a lesson a really difficult way. It was a very painful, but very enlightening and spiritual experience. It was a happening that I look back upon often and I wouldn't trade it for the world. This experience utterly showed me that the way I was showing my love for my Father in Heaven was done with strings attached. I was living by an if - then principle; wanting something so intensely, more than I have ever wanted anything in my entire life and I do not say that loosely; however I was only showing my love for the Lord based on the outcome of the very thing my heart desired. I didn't recognize it immediately, but I was putting value on that thing more than I was putting value on the love I have for the Lord.

Ever since that day, I spend a lot of time pondering the magnitude of my love for the Lord and what strings are attached to the love I give to Him. When I don't see the blessings in front of me, can I still fully love Him the exact same as if I had everything I ever wanted surrounding me?

"In the scriptures we find only two situations in which we are commanded to love with all our hearts. We are commanded, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart" (Matthew 22:37) and "Thou shalt love thy wife [or husband] with all they heart" (D+C 42:22)." "President Spencer W. Kimball explained the meaning of this commandment: "When the Lord says with all thy heart, it allows for no sharing nor diving nor depriving..." (Relief Society study guide, Follow me [1992], p.105) 


To make this a bit easier to explain, I'm not going to address loving your spouse with all your heart at the moment, don't worry I'm going to blog about marriage soon. I've thought a lot about the explanation President Kimball has given on loving with 'all thy heart'; to me I interpret it as not giving even an infinitesimal portion of love  to any other person or thing, above the love I have for my Father. Just fully and purely loving The One wholly and completely. The word dividing means to separate; so if we aren't to separate our love, we can't connect the love we give to the Lord to any of our hearts desires, no matter what. If God chooses not to bless us with the pleas and desires of our hearts, no matter how righteous of a desire it is, can we fully love Him anyways? We must or we would be going against the first and greatest of the ten commandments. Can we trust Him and openly accept His will for us and show our love to Him no matter the consequence? Depriving would be to deny or refuse to give it, holding some part of our heart back. If something happens that upsets us or isn't going our way, do we deprive our love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, even if just a slight portion of it? I hope this isn't the case because no matter what we have or don't have, we are absolutely nothing without Him just as Mosiah 4:11 teaches. I LOVE that it says 'unworthy creatures'; I am extremely sensitive and I used to not like this phrase. But isn't it wonderful that Heavenly Father can teach us humility through a bold manner while still loving us absolutely so perfectly?  

Mosiah 4:11 
"And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humilitycalling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel."

Have you ever wanted something so badly that you would do anything for it? Have you ever had a desire in your heart that you would pay the price no matter what cost Heavenly Father asked you to pay? That was my experience and it was in that moment that I realized I was letting a diminutive portion of my faith be based upon that desire. Once I realized that my exceptional righteousness and love I was offering and living was connected to what my heart truly aspired, I was so ashamed. Heavenly Father taught me this in the most gentle and compassionate way but I hadn't understood it until once again what I wanted was withheld and taken from me. That was the moment I knew I needed to work harder at loving my Heavenly Father with 'all thy heart'. 

Here's the thing about loving Heavenly Father, your spirit loves Him perfectly, but YOU have to recognize just how much you love Him and that takes work. It takes discipline and tons of work because you have to know someone or at least have a connection with them to love them, wouldn't you agree?

Let's take a mother with an unborn child. I'm assuming her love for that child is so pure and powerful during those 9 months of carrying the child, thinking of the child, preparing for the child, and worrying about the child. She loves the child because of her personal connection with the child, it's inside her. But once the child is born, and she sees the child, holds the child, and learns of the child - I can only imagine that the love she had before is now completely expanded to unexplainable but infinite level. 

So let's take that back to Heavenly Father. We understand He is our Father and we love Him and we recognize that He cares about us and we are indebted to Him and our Savior Jesus Christ. But I've come to realize in my own life that the more I really take the time to spend with Him, get to know Him, learn of Him, and become like Him; the more I recognize and understand the love I have for Him on a completely higher level.  

I believe your spirit can know something and believe in something, but both your heart and head have to be on the same page or your actions will not convey what your beliefs or feelings really are. So, shouldn't we take the time to really get to know Heavenly Father so we can understand the love our individual spirits have for Him? 

But how do we really get to know Heavenly Father? It takes the work of coming to understand His words and knowing the language He speaks in, both in the scriptures and to you personally. It takes faith of believing that He will bless you and believing that He has your best interest at heart at all times and in all things. It takes speaking to Him on a regular if not constant basis to learn of His ways, His patterns, His desires, His will, and all you can understand of Him on this side of the veil. The more I seek to learn of Him and make an effort to have a very strong connection and relationship with Him, the deeper I feel my love for Him grow in my heart. It's a wonderful feeling when I am asked to give up and sacrifice something dear to my heart, then I can more fully come running to Him realizing I have absolutely nothing without Him.

I'm so grateful for the painful experiences in my life that help me to love the Lord 'with all thy heart'. I never want Him to question my love for Him. I want to show Him the signs that He is my everything. 

President Benson said "To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is all-consuming and all-encompassing. It is no lukewarm endeavor. It is total commitment of our very being—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—to a love of the Lord." 

I can think of two perfect examples of loving God a whole heart. Our savior who gave his entire life for us and for Him so willingly and selflessly that there are no words to describe it. His love for our Father was perfect and infinite and we must follow after His example even though we can't comprehend what he did for us or the agony he suffered. The second example is Abraham who was told to sacrifice his son Issach, whom he had waited years to even have. He loved God more than His very own son and He was selflessly willing to do all that was asked of Him, can you imagine?

In this moment, I am making a resolve to love my Heavenly Father with my whole heart, might, mind, and strength, holding nothing back with no strings attached. It's important for us to evaluate daily where we stand in loving the Lord.

CHALLENGE: 
Write in your journal today about the love you show Heavenly Father!
Questions: 
1. Do you know Heavenly Father with your full heart or do you just know of Him?
2. Can you honestly say you love the Lord with 'all thy heart'?
3. Is that love dependent on certain blessings you have or wish to have? If you lost everything or you were asked to do the hardest thing you can imagine, would you still love the Lord just as much or are there strings attached?
4. What can you do today to show Heavenly Father just how pure your love is?
5. What does it mean to put God first to you personally?

Book Review - The Olive Tree: An artistic adaptation

THE OLIVE TREE - An artistic adaptation



About the Book:
Author: Christine Layton Graham
Illustrator: Carol Layton Ogden
Calligraphy: Joan Layton Merrell
Released: 2015
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc.
Genre: Spiritual/Inspirational

From the parable of the olive tree from Jacob 5 in the Book of Mormon.





Book Sources:




My Rating: 4.0 stars

Book Description:
 Nurture your connection with Heaven as you examine the olive tree parable more closely. This unique book will enhance your spiritual understanding with a one-of-a-kind experience that takes you beyond the story.

Through artwork, adapted text, and hand-worked calligraphy, you'll see each symbol as you never have before and feel the Savior's love each time He case for His trees.

The branches, the fruit, the servants, the grafting - each stands in place of something with larger meaning. The story of the Olive Tree isn't just a parable. It's the story of humanity.



My thoughts:

The artwork and the calligraphy in this book is so beautiful. The whole look and feel to this book is so pure and so enthralling that it really is a master piece of art. I loved that there were different colors used to captivate the audience. There are pictures on every page.

This book was created with the whole family in mind to understand this parable in a more clear perspective. Scripture language and parables don't come easy to my understanding. I have to break apart words and fragments often to understand concepts in the scriptures. I was so excited for this book to help me understand the parable in a very simple way, and it didn't as much as I expected. 

While it didn't explain it in a children's language like I expected, it is still the perfect book for family, perhaps to use in family home evening or family scripture study. The book brought the Spirit into my heart as I found myself searching out the parable more, pondering it in my mind, and praying about it's teachings. Isn't that what scripture stories are supposed to do for us anyways? So I absolutely loved it for that purpose. Most of the pages are full of exact scripture, so the parable is not altered or taken out of context, which I loved. 

About the creators behind the book:



Christine Layton Graham // A writer, an editor, and a college English instructor living in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her books include When Pioneer Wagons Rumbled West, Three Little Robbers, and Peter Peter Picks a Pumpkin House. She also has had literary pieces published in the New Era and the Friend.

Carol Layton Ogden // An artist living in Springville, Utah. She studied design at BYU and in recent years has studied under a variety of artists, including Ann Kullberg and J. Kirk Richards. 

Joan Layton Merrell // A professional calligrapher and fiber artist living in Jefferson City, Missouri. She teaches on the national level, and her calligraphic art has been published in Letter Arts Review and The Calligrapher's Engagement Calendar.


IDEAS ON HOW TO USE THIS BOOK:

If you decide to check out this book and obtain a copy for your family, it would make an incredible scripture study discussion if you use it with the Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual (my favorite book EVER for understanding scriptures).
The pictures in the book added with the questions the manual offers would be a great way to help children really understand the concepts and principles this wonderful parable teaches us.

The Parable of the Olive Tree is an allegory. "An allegory uses symbolic characters, objects, and actions to teach truths. As students study this allegory, they can learn important lessons about Jesus Christ's willingness to help those who have turned away from Him." (Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual [2012], 157)


Here are some of the questions from 
the manual to go perfectly with this book:

Have you ever wondered about the Lord's willingness to forgive you of your sins?
What began to happen to the tame olive tree?
What does the decay of the tree symbolize?
What is apostasy?
What evidence can you find of the master's concern for the roots of the tame olive tree?
What phrases show the effort of the master of the vineyard to preserve the tame (or natural) olive tree and its branches?
What does this illustrate about the Lord's feelings toward His covenant people?
What have you learned about Jesus Christ, the master of the vineyard?
How does this allegory relate the Lord's willingness to forgive of us our sins?
How does the master's care for his vineyard represent the Lord's love for us?
What are some examples, from the scriptures of from the life, that illustrate that the Lord continues to love and care for people even after they have turned away from Him?
Do you think the master will give up on his vineyard? Why or why not?
What did the master hope would happen to the roots?
Who might be represented by the multiple servants?
What is significant about the words we, our, and us?
When have you felt that the Lord has labored with you as you have participated in His work?
What are some opportunities you have to serve the Lord and help others bring forth "good fruit"?
What did the master of the vineyard promise to those who labored with him?
Why do you think it is significant that the servants labored "with their mights" and "with all diligence"?

Discuss what each symbol represents:
Tame olive tree
The vineyard
Decay
Lord and master of the vineyard
Pruning, digging, and nourishing
Servant of the master of the vineyard
Branches
Wild olive tree
Grafting and planting branches
Burning branches
Fruit 


I received a free copy of this book for review but all opinions and rating are my own.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Be patient - It's only four minutes



I checked both the front and back doors of my home to make sure everything was locked as I rushed out the door in a hurry to act on an impression I had received moments before. Little did I realize I had forgot to check and see if I had my keys before closing the door. I reached into my bag to grab my car keys when I realized they were no where to be found and I had left them in on the table, the table in my LOCKED house! Oh no, I was already in a hurry and then I started doubting the plans and instruction Heavenly Father had given me moments before. I frantically went around the house checking all the doors and windows just to be sure there wasn't a way to get in. Even though I was in a skirt and high heels, I was willing to do whatever it took to get into the house so I could follow the direction the Lord had spoken to me. 

My dad had left the house a little while before I, to pick up my mom from work. It was 7:20 and I knew my mom's meeting wasn't over until 7:30 and that was all the way downtown. I'm doomed I thought. I kept asking Heavenly Father why this was happening when it wasn't fitting into the plan he had given me. I was so frustrated, it was cold outside and it could start to rain at any moment. I didn't know what to do. I was thinking of where to run to so I could at least have warm shelter. I started to amble down the street when the Spirit whispered to me "Text your dad" that was a weird thought, he wasn't going to be home for at least another hour. What good would that do? But I couldn't deny it so I wrote "Are you coming straight home after picking up mom? I just locked myself out of the house." He replied instantly "Be there in 4 min."

My heart rejoiced. That was something so unexpected. Turns out my mom had received an offer to get a ride home. Coincidence? I think not! In fact I know not. All those moments when I was so frustrated, so upset and wondering why He had given me instruction to follow if He wasn't even going to make it possible to fulfill. The moment my father returned, my heart rejoiced! I could be warm and proceed with accomplishing the thing which I had been commanded. It was in that moment that I knew that this was Heavenly Father teaching me a lesson or three.

Was it just by chance my dad said he would be home in FOUR-MINUTES and that I texted him in that moment that he could reply with that response? ABSOLUTELY NOT! When I read those words, the talk "Your Four Minutes" flooded my mind. I knew that God was trying to teach me that I need to give it my all. This life thing is really a blink of an eye in an eternal perspective. It was a chance for me to evaluate if I am really giving the Lord all that I possibly can at this time.

Second lesson, He was teaching me patience. I was locked out of the house all but 10 minutes. I panicked and questioned everything He had told me moments before. I was mad, I was frustrated, I was upset with myself for not being more observant before I shut the door. I was already having a day full of emotions and I started making a bigger deal out of this situation in my mind than was really necessary. What did Heavenly Father desire to teach me. Patience - His ways and His plans are absolutely so pure and perfect. He is in the every detail of our lives. He cares. He loves us. He is never too far and you are never forgotten. I have a really hard time believing this and being patient when all I can see is the trial in front of my eyes and the big heavy rain clouds above my head that look like they are about to drop at any moment. I can't always see what He is doing. I don't understand the situation so I doubt and I panic. But there is ALWAYS hope just down the road. Our Heavenly Father will ALWAYS come to the rescue, just like my earthly father came to mine! He saw my father was just down the street and He gave me the guidance needed to ensure I knew that as well. Do we open our hearts and turn to Him in times when it seems there is no hope from what we can see? Do we stay patient and trust that Heavenly Father loves us perfectly and knows exactly what He is doing? 

The thing about doubt and fear is that these emotions come from the adversary, always! So when it starts to enter our mind, one doubt can feed another and another and so on until we become swallowed up and we are in the power of Satan to influence our thoughts even further. No wonder patience is a virtue and a Christ-like attribute we must strive to obtain. The more we act in faith and trust, the closer we come to Christ, and isn't that our main goal anyways?

Okay third and last lesson, Nephi 3:7 "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he  commandeth them." Don't you love this scripture?!  Anything that God asks of us, any direction He gives us, it's not just going to lead us to a dead end. He doesn't say no so we are sent on a detour without an outlet. There will be new roads, new possibilities, and new answers and He will always help us to accomplish what needs to be done. Just as Heavenly Father asked me to do something then put a roadblock on my path, He also created a bridge for me to go over that block so I was able to accomplish exactly what He had instructed. It was a great lesson. The assignment wasn't easy, but I knew He was proud and that's what mattered, that's what made every moment of this lesson worth it!

Heavenly Father is GOOD, He is your Father who infinitely cares about you more than you will ever know. Come to know Him more and pray to see His hand in your life and you will, that I guarantee! 


P.S. In my institute class last night, this talk was brought up. I had never heard of it before. Then this morning when I got on Facebook, a friend had posted this mormon message. At first I thought, "wow that's crazy", then my stake president's words become very clear in my mind "There is no such thing as a coincidence". An overflowing feeling of love and joy filled my heart as I knew this was a message Heavenly Father needed me to hear. I watched it at least five times today. Perhaps you'll benefit from it's message as well! Enjoy! 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How the atonement helped me overcome self-objectification



I was sitting in my PR Cases & Campaigns class bright and early this morning and we were watching examples of social ad campaigns. We observed this ad produced by Dove, one that I have seen numerous times previously, and the Spirit just hit me so strongly, right there in class reminding me of how incredible the atonement is! This is a bit of an interesting example and I have many, many more experiences with the atonement, but today I feel the need to share with you how incredibly powerful the atonement is through my personal self-objectification experience. 

Last year, from January to August 2014, I was more insecure of my personal image than I had ever been in my life. I feel prompted to share my experience with you even though I'm ashamed of it. I'm ashamed of it because of my perception now. I'm ashamed of it because the thoughts that I'm going to share with you are real and I know now exactly who they were coming from, the adversary. I'm ashamed because of the moments I wasted loving myself for who I am.

I had never really had much acne until January 2014, and it hit me hard. I was going through some stressful situations at this time, so maybe that triggered it, I have no idea because I'm still fighting it as I write this, but the words I am going to use to describe how I felt don't even slightly compare with the emotions that I feel now. Waking up one day with blemishes all over my face was a very new and real thing for me. I felt so self-conscious every single day. On every single date I went on, I wondered if they could see, I wondered if they noticed it. It was so hard for me to see past my acne, I would spend hours in my car crying, asking and pleading for comfort and trying to find my worth in the world. These words don't do justice to my feelings or emotions. It wasn't just my acne I was concerned with, I just didn't feel beautiful and glamorous like I desired. I don't look like a pageant girl, I never had. For some unknown reason the thought that I wasn't pretty enough and that's what mattered in this world would not leave me alone. My favorite place to go was the temple, I felt so beautiful in the temple. I felt my image didn't matter there. 

But on the days that I wasn't at the temple, every single morning I would wake up, put on my make-up, say "This is as good as it's going to get" and then I would cry and cry. How I looked was on my mind much more than I can proudly admit. These thoughts of what I wanted to change about my face and features consumed everything in me. I wanted to look like the stars you see on TV and in magazines. I would stare at these pictures, then go back and look in the mirror and I nit picked everything about myself. I'm telling you, these unhealthy thoughts consumed me like crazy. 

I didn't think any guy would ever desire to love me or marry me, because I didn't have flawless skin. I told you I'm ashamed to write out this post because huge mistake I had made in my thought process, mistaking guys for being that shallow. If you think a guy won't love you because you have acne or any other imperfection you would consider a flaw, then you are searching for the wrong guy. The right guy won't care one bit, I promise you this! Sure, there are plenty of conceited guys out there who will only date girls with a certain image, but do you really truly want to be with one of them? Love isn't based on image, attraction is very important in marriage don't get me wrong. But the right guy will be attracted to you just the way you are, I know this to be true. The right guy for you will first fall in love with you for your heart and everything will fall into place thereafter. 

I can distinctly remember sitting in my car, reflecting on my imperfections a few different times, I remember the exact location of where I was and how deeply my heart was grieving. Once again, I remind you that my description of my heart break doesn't even slightly reflect the worthlessness and heartbreak I felt based on my appearance. So I was sitting there just sobbing, and I asked Heavenly Father for a little help and understanding of why I felt the way I did and how I could feel beautiful and valuable once again. This was the beginning of my thought change process that took place through the atonement of Jesus Christ. 

Months passed by, every day I would wrestle with the Lord in my thoughts of my worth, why I thought it was all based on appearance during this time, I know not. July came and Colbie Callat released her new song 'Try'. I loved it but hated it. I would listen to it over, and over, and over again trying to convince myself that I didn't need to "try" to be beautiful and I already was. It didn't help that when Colbie takes off her makeup and all in the music video, the girl is still absolutely flawless. I should post a picture of me with no make-up on so you can see what I am talking about. 

As I prayed more and studied more of what it meant to be a daughter of God, my heart changed and grace carried me. It wasn't easy and it wasn't all over night, but I remember one day thinking, "You know, I stopped critiquing myself and crying over my image a few weeks ago. I really like who I am and I can see Christ's countenance in my image. It was then that I understood what Elaine Dalton meant by this quote; "There is no more beautiful sight than a young woman who glows with the light of the Spirit, who is confident and courageous because she is virtuous."

Suddenly I didn't care about looking like the girls in the media, I didn't care about comparing myself to others, and I didn't care as much about the flawed skin underneath my foundation. I just didn't care, and I felt beautiful just the way I am and I'm so grateful I was able to recognize that it was the atonement and grace that brought me to that point. I don't know why I had to go through those painful emotions over such a worldly thing, but I do know it helped teach me an invaluable lesson of worth and that it's the spiritual things that will always matter. Spiritual blessings can help you overcome or lessen any worldly pain you experience. 

I was spending all that time looking at myself through the eyes of the adversary. It was so damaging because it was distracting me of my divine earthly mission. Satan knows exactly what he is doing, don't let him win girls, fight back!! Did you wake up this morning and see yourself through the eyes of the Savior or the eyes of the adversary? It's a daily choice you get to make but I want to share 5 things that might help you to understand your worth and to feel beautiful inside and out every single day. 

5 actions to see yourself through the eyes of the Savior

1. Spend more time with the Savior

To see yourself through the eyes of someone, you really need to get to know them and understand who they are and what they believe in. Spend more time with the Savior than you actually spend getting ready in the morning. In fact, I challenge you to double the time. If you spend 30 minutes on your hair and makeup each morning, spend an hour with the Savior.

So how exactly do you spend time with the Savior? Learn of Him, learn of His teachings, learn of His attributes, and learn of His life and His legacy.

Here are a few suggestions...
- Watch bible videos of the Savior.
- Read '21 Days closer to Christ'
- Study Chapter 6 in Preach my Gospel about Christlike attributes
- Pray for gratitude and an understanding of the atonement + of grace
- Watch for Him daily in your life

2. Pray for an understanding of Individual worth and a love for who you are

So you've heard about individual worth, right? It's spoken of and recited all the time in Young Women's. Here's my favorite part about it though, even if you don't fully grasp what it means or understand how it applies to you personally, IT'S STILL THERE! Even if you don't feel individual worth and God's love pouring in your life or heart at this moment, that doesn't mean it is taken away. It is NEVER changing. It is perfect. It is infinite. It is there in the moments you feel and it is there in the moments you don't. If you don't understand it, pray to feel it, pray to understand it, pray to see it in your personal life. If you are diligent with this prayer, I personally testify to you that you will see it and feel it. I don't know when or how, but it will surround you and without a doubt you will know if you will just stay diligent!

3. Listen to empowering messages that teach you about who you are. Study what it means to be a daughter of God, more than you have ever studied anything ever before!

For me, this one was essential because if you are doubting your worth based on your outer beauty, you're missing the most important teaching in this church. For me, I had to really understand who I was and love that more than all else before I could learn or understand any other principle. This is the foundation for anything else to be built upon. Article of Faith number four teaches us that faith is the first principle of the gospel and if you don't understand that you're a beloved daughter of Heavenly Father and all that that entails, then you're missing something and that's why for me, this was the best place to start. 

Some great places to start:
- Daughter of a King playlist 
- Daughters of Heavenly Father talk
- Mosiah 5 
- This Lesson 

4. Dig deep into the scriptures

Really immerse yourself in the scriptures and get to know them inside and out. The goal is to know them so well that you find yourself reflecting more on scriptures and their stories instead of all the negative thoughts of worthlessness this world can have you believing. You want to be so focused on the goodness and gems the scriptures offer that you won't have time to really focus on the insecurities that you may be faced with. Study scriptures based on individual worth. Study the stories of the woman heroes and make it a goal to become as noble as them. 

5. SERVE

Lose yourself and go serve others! If you find yourself thinking too much about yourself, it's time to forget yourself and let Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ take care of all your worries and concerns while you serve Them. You are the chosen one to serve those in your circle of influence. If you find yourself dwelling on imperfections and insecurities, pray about, forget it, then go bake cookies and take them to a friend! I promise you it works. You deserve a treat too! (No bake cookies are my favorite, just in case you were wondering ;) 

Then watch this short clip!


But please girls, 
please remember that you are NEVER, EVER alone!


Saturday, May 16, 2015

My opinions on success, motherhood, and some other ramblings

I used to believe success meant prosperity, money, titles, achievements and accomplishments. Today I got a very good look at all of those things, meeting with moms who are very successful from a worldly standpoint. While I spoke with them, I had the opportunity to see their daughters in the same room with them. I got to see the interactions between these mothers and daughters, as well as their similarities and differences. These successful mothers appeared to be incredibly happy, but in my heart I just couldn't bring myself to desire what they had. While many of these moms were active LDS, I still felt something was missing, perhaps it was enough for them, but not enough for what my heart and spirit desires to obtain. I should make some disclaimers right away before I proceed. I am not judging these incredible mothers and their daughters. I admire and respect them for all that they are and all that they have obtained. I am simply different than them and that is 100% okay. What I am going to write about is my own personal opinion, it may be completely far fetched and inaccurate. While I am LDS and I try to live what I believe, I am not perfect and therefore I have no right to judge another, so the rest of this post is simply my thoughts on the person I want to become. 

I can't speak for others and perhaps these mothers and daughters are truly and purely happy, but just for one moment, I considered what it would be like to be them; living in such luxury with incredible success underneath their belt, not even for one moment could I picture myself declaring "Yes, that's exactly what success and true happiness looks like. Yes this is what happiness is all about for me." To me, success is giving every single thing I have to offer to my Savior, Jesus Christ, and after I gave all that I possibly could, I would give one more thing. I am not close to that, I work daily at it but I fall short every single time and that's why I am still learning, still being tested, still being tried. But to me, that's what happiness is. As weird as it is, the times I am hurting or wondering what more I can give, those are the times I am happiest. That's because those are the times I am most humble. Those are the moments that I recognize anything I have or any worldly success I have obtained is all thanks to my wonderful Heavenly Father, none of it is mine, it's all His. Just recognizing that and then being willing to give even that back to Him, to me that's what success looks like. Success can't ever be based on temporary or frivolous things, at least not in my eyes. I listened in as a few of these girls named off some of the things they were most grateful for, as I did this, my heart just broke for the emptiness this list contained. This is an LDS girl who is fifteen years old;  her list consisted of makeup, clothes, the car she will be getting soon, etc, etc. What about friends? Good parents? Health? The ability to walk? The gospel in her life? This experience just opened my eyes to what I want to teach my girls if and when I have the very incredible blessing of being a mom. I don't want my daughters or sons for that matter to be raised loving worldly things. Worldly things are temporary and don't bring the spirit or the understanding that gospel principles offer. I want my children to really know and understand the source of everything that will bless their life. 

I realize my ideas and philosophies in life are so different from the majority of the world, perhaps they are very different than those in the church as well. But right now I'm soaking up anything and everything about parenting and raising youth. I believe the most important thing any parent needs to do is live by example. The example of whatever that may be that they desire to teach their children. If they desire to teach them gossip, all that parent has to do is just that...gossip! Now hopefully that won't be the case, but perhaps that is the number one cause of gossip, they learned it from a parents example. Perhaps even just one time is enough for the child to catch on and emulate what has been observed from the eyes of the child. 

I know for me, I want to raise kind and loving children in the gospel. Children that love to pray and read scriptures. While I can tell them to read and pray, I can teach them these acts, or even command them to do so... I feel that is wrong, and perhaps will push them away (you know, the whole reverse psychology thing). The best possible thing I can do as a parent is to practice this until I become perfect in it, and then perhaps they will follow in my example. I don't think being an example is a guarantee for children to grow up and live their life like you did yours, and most likely thank goodness for that, at least for me ha ha. I know so many very good and righteous parents who have children that have struggled or lost their way. But if example isn't the foundation of your parenting skills, then I believe anything you teach them has a huge chance of tumbling down and not becoming apart of who they are.

I desire to be the mom that doesn't wear makeup every single day because I want to teach my daughters that beauty comes from within. I have lots of acne, it's not attractive but I do know that the outward appearance doesn't matter even slightly as much as the emphasis and pressure we put upon it. I want my girls to love who they are without needing name brands and following the latest trends. I have a hard time with this concept because I can't even describe to you how much I desired to fit in at school. And yet I didn't, and I so desperately wish I would have been taught that it doesn't matter. I wish someone would have just pointed out that my wishes were coming from a very temporary desire. I wish I would have been who I was, but owned that and embraced everything about it instead of trying to mold myself to become like everyone around me.

I desire to be a mom that always speaks so kindly of herself. I grew up in a home where my mom believed she wasn't smart at all. A mom that didn't feel like she had self-worth or value. A mom that didn't recognize what a good mother she was until her kids grew up. All of these negative statements she would make about herself daily started to really take hold of how I viewed myself. I started to believe that I wasn't smart, that I wasn't pretty, and that I wasn't enough. It was the example she had set, and I think if she would have known how much I watched her and would take after her, she would have done things so much differently. Thank goodness I was able to catch onto this and have now found daily practice to overcome the negative beliefs I had developed some time ago, from something so simple but so profound. 

Mothers, what you say and think about yourself or anyone else for that matter, can really affect your children. They are watching you at every moment whether you know it or not. You are their role model, you are the first woman they ever fully get to know in their young growing years. While you have to separate your worth and success from the choices your children and teens will make, it's important to be the example for what you do desire them to become.

Growing up, I thought I had all the answers, don't we all? I thought I would desire to give my children the items they asked for. I thought I would have the desires to spoil them until they knew they were loved. My eyes have been opened and I now recognize that items and money do not equate to love. Making your children work hard for what they do have, that's love! Teaching your children through example, that's love! Not giving your children everything they desire, that's love! Asking them to sacrifice things they may hold dear to their heart over all else, that's love! No wonder Heavenly Father has perfect love for His children, He does just that and so much more. Everything I want to teach my children, every attribute I want to have as a parent, I must look to Him for the example He offers me. And for me to become a more humble daughter and more loving to both my Heavenly and earthly parents, I have my Savior to look to for His perfect example of being a perfect son.

To my future children, it's possible we may live forever in a very humble home with very humble upbringings, not because I don't desire to work hard, but because I desire to give back all that I will obtain to my Heavenly Father who has given it all to me! That's the kind of success that I desire to teach you. That's what I feel to be right in my heart and that's how I will show and teach you love!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Rambles from the temple parking lot


                    
   
I feel like writing a free write for all of you. Not sure what will come on this post but we shall see. So  I'm sitting in the parking lot of the Oquirrh mountain temple right now, I drove here because the temple parking lot is my reflecting place. I always keep my Book of Mormon in my purse, so I pulled it out and 1 Nephi 9:5-6 caught my eye. I'm in a weird mood right now, a mood where I'm not happy, not sad, not peaceful, and not broken. I feel nothing, it's weird but I'm pretty sure that I would rather feel something, anything right now. I said a prayer on the way here, so frustrated by something in my life. Frustrated from contradictory answers received from revelation and what church leaders say.

This line in verse 5 really caught me, "for a wise purpose in him, which Purpose I know not." This is exactly how I feel. I feel like I am supposed to trust and follow his wise purpose but I have no clue why and because it makes no sense, what about everything else standing in front of me saying there is no hope? 

I don't have answers and sometimes I forget how much my Heavenly Father loves me and desires to bless me. Sometimes I get caught holding the umbrella over my head telling Heavenly a father I don't want His outpouring blessings even though my spirit is pleading for them. Why? I know not. What I do know is that God has ALL POWER, it says so in verse 6. 

So what's the point of this post? I don't know but I know the more I think about hope, the more I believe in hope. The more I push myself to pray when I really don't feel like it, the more blessings pour over my heart (and sometimes it takes FOREVER for my heart to fully open in that prayer). 

Sometimes I feel stuck. 
Sometimes I have really hard moments wondering how any good can come out of the situations I go through. 
Sometimes I have to work SO HARD at humbling myself so the Spirit can speak to me. 
Sometimes I feel weighed down. 
Sometimes I don't feel enough. 
Sometimes I plead for tender mercies or for a hand to reach out, and sometimes those prayers are answered immediately. 
Sometime I am more blessed than I deserve and sometimes I fully recognize that. 
Sometimes the Spirit speaks to my heart through posts like these. 

So I'll stop rambling on now, and if you made it to this point of this post, wow! I just want you to know how totally imperfect I am and while I strive to be more and become better daily, I am flawed but I am enough and that's all that matters. 

I want to leave you with 5 pieces of advice: 

1. If you don't feel like praying, do it anyways. Do you know how many times I don't feel like it? I'm not going to count, but prayer is what brings me to humility so Heavenly Father can speak to me, and that's what brings me peace + happiness that can't be found anywhere else. 

2. Don't EVER seek the approval of ANYONE other than Heavenly Father. Lately I've been caught in the trap wondering what others think or say about me behind my back. Does it really matter? ABSOLUTELY NOT!! A good scripture for this is Romans 8:31 "If God be for us, who can be against us?" God's approval will take you to the greatest place you can ever desire to reach. Pleasing others will never help you, it will destroy you! 

3. Remember that God keeps His promises. He loves you so much, He cares about you and desires for you to receive many blessings! He is in the details of your life, don't forget it! In the moments you think He's not aware of you, He is SO involved in your life!

4. Stop trying to find faults in others, are they there? Yes, of course. We are imperfect people but let's build one another up and assume at all times that everyone is doing the avail best that they can be doing. If they're not, that's okay. That's not our problem and Heavenly Father will take care of it as we humbly overlook it! 

5. If you are looking to obtain or recognize spiritual gifts, start practicing them because they can be developed. Remember the parable of the talents? They grow as you use them, it's a gift so put it to use to get better at what you desire! 

Well, I apologize for all the typos. I did this on my phone! I wanted to try something new and it was pretty amazing! 

Your Celestial Journey - A talk for LDS Young Women

I came across THIS incredible talk by Thomas S. Monson from 1999. I thought it was so great. It was addressed to the young women of the church and I absolutely LOVED it! I wanted to highlight a few of my favorite gems that really caught my heart!

This was the theme of the talk.. oh how I just LOVED it so of course I had to make you a printable. 




Highlights from the talk...

"Our Heavenly Father has placed an upward reach in every one of us. The words of scripture speak loud and clear: “Look to God and live.”  No problem is too small for His attention nor so large that He cannot answer the prayer of faith. Prayer surely is the passport to spiritual power. You can pray with purpose when you realize who you are and what Heavenly Father wants you to become."

 - Thomas S. Monson




Alma 37:47  - "Look to God and Live" 


Isn't that quote just SO great?! That scripture is so dear to my heart. Lately, in moments of fear or doubt this scripture helps me to remember that I just need to keep living my life, doing all that I can and pushing forward in action and as I look to God while I am living my life, He will constantly guide me, bless me, and protect me. I want my heart to constantly be turned to Him.

Now, let's talk about prayer being a passport to spiritual power. The definition of a passport is "a thing that ensures admission to or the achievement of something." The word that struck me from the definition is ENSURES. So simply put, prayer is making certain, even guaranteeing that we will have the ability to obtain spiritual guidance in our life. 

Spiritual power is something we could study about for days, if not weeks on end. I came across this talk I loved titled 'Spiritual Power'. Talking about spiritual power, I also think of the book 'Drawing on the Powers of Heaven', by Grant Von Harrison {It is such a great book, if you haven't read it I highly suggest it.} But to simply sum up spiritual power, it is drawing down divine guidance and revelation from the heavens. POWERFUL!! And to think that that sacred gift is a guarantee for us if we would just but pray...ahhh I LOVE that. :)


"Life was never meant to be all smiles and happiness. There will come those teaching times to each of you when you will witness the love of your mother, the strength of your father, and the inspiration of God." 

- Thomas S. Monson

"Life was never meant to be all smiles and happiness." Isn't this so great? So can I be honest and tell you a story? A few years ago I had just gotten out of a really bad experience and I was trying so hard to find happiness and peace in my life. I thought if I would just look towards the bright side of everything and forget that sadness and trials were even a thing, they wouldn't exist. I could completely block it out. Well I came home from church one day and I sat down to talk with my parents and I said "Do you know what really bothers me about church? It drives me crazy that in the church we focus so much on trials and hard times in life. I don't want to dwell on hard moments or be reminded so often that they exist." To this day I haven't forgotten my words, but CLEARLY I was missing and forgetting something. I was missing the fact that trials are about the most beautiful blessings we have in this world. They allow us to see miracles and witness the love our Heavenly Father has for us. I was forgetting the principle of grace and the love our Savior offers us daily to help us get through the hard times. I was missing the concept of endurance and patience and even though life really isn't all smiles and pure happiness, we are here to be tried and tested and there would be no point to this life if all we were doing is blocking out our hard times, what would we gain from that? Now, as hard as it is, I look at church and life just a little bit different. I can't get enough of the talks and lessons on trials. Trails are a constant reminder to me of the atonement and it is always there for me to access and draw upon in my times of need. There is no greater solution to our problems than Christ, He is the answer to all tribulations. 

"Study with purpose, both in church and in school. Write down your goals and what you plan to do to achieve them. Aim high, for you are capable of eternal blessings." 

- Thomas S. Monson

We have been asked to study the doctrine of the church as well as get an education in nonsecular areas. What a beautiful statement that we must never forget. "Write down your goals!" Until a goal is written down and planned for with steps to achieve it, it is just a dream or a wish. We are capable of eternal blessings as we aim high, a man who is now our modern day prophet is the one speaking these words! We would be oh so wise to listen.


"You must make your decisions purposefully." 
 - Thomas S. Monson

This quote really struck me because how many times a day are we making decisions? SO MANY! And if we made every decision based on a purpose of what we want our end result to be and what sign we want to show Heavenly Father, we would be SO blessed! Our loving Heavenly Father desires us to each become good decision makers, which is why we were given the gift of agency at birth. Every decision takes us to a road with more decisions and we are going to end up in an incredible place if we make our decisions with much purpose and prayer. 
"Young sisters, your opportunities to reach outward and bless the lives of others are limitless. 
Avoid the tendency to postpone a prompting or an opportunity to grow and to serve."
- Thomas S. Monson

We have limitless opportunities to serve, how incredibly exciting!!! I've noticed that for me it is only limitless when my eyes are outward looking. When I am inwardly focused, I have a much harder time feeling the love my Heavenly Father has for me. However, when I am searching for opportunities to share goodness and help others, they are all over the place and I feel blessed that I could be there in that moment to play just a little role in being an instrument in the hand of the Lord. Just today I saw an opportunity to help someone, I felt a prompting to ask this lady if she needed a ride as it was raining. I went to go turn around to approach her and by the time I got to her, she was gone. Now am I second guessing that prompting, NO WAY!! Heavenly Father saw that I had the willing heart to help her and I truly believe because He witnessed my efforts that He will bless me with many opportunities in the future.

"Procrastination is truly a thief of time. Meet the daily challenges of your lives."
- Thomas S. Monson

So this one hit my hard, yes, procrastination may be a bit of my weakness. "Why do I procrastinate?" I ask myself every time I am working and stressing to meet a last minute deadline. Well I know why I do it, I get so overwhelmed with everything I have going on at once that I just have a brain crash of some kind and I then I think to myself "Ah well, I can do that later." NO! I can't. Now I have been asked by a spokesperson of the Lord to not procrastinate. If you find yourself procrastinating, kneel down and ask for Heavenly Father's help to finish the project that you have at hand. He knows you personally and He desires to help you in all the big and small moments of your life. 

"A patriarchal blessing contains chapters from your life’s book of possibilities." 
- Thomas S. Monson

Can we just break down this quote because breaking down words in the English language is really SO fascinating to me. Okay so have the word chapters. So chapters to me sound like a definate thing. In this context, a chapter is a promised blessing from Heavenly Father. Something that will be fulfilled as long as you are living worthily! Isn't that wonderful? Have you taken the time to really thank Heavenly Father for the blessings that are promised to your name, even if they have yet to be fulfilled. A possibility is something that may or may not happen, right? So we have a life of endless possibilities that is waiting you. YOUR life is your fairytale book, it's your story that is being written as we speak. There are several possibilities that away you, moments of adversity that will need to be triumphed as well as moments of happily ever after happiness and bliss. But as you make wise decisions and as you are faithful to the promises you have made to Heavenly Father and you do all that you can do, those chapters (or promised blessings) WILL be fulfilled! And to me that is AMAZING!

Go listen to this talk, then come back her and tell me what stood out to you!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Trials can be beautiful



Trials have been heavy on my mind lately. All day today when I heard about something heartbreaking, my heart felt for them so deeply, but inside I was sincerely rejoicing for them. Rejoicing for the fact that Heavenly Father sees potential within these people who are facing difficulties, rejoicing in the fact that they get the chance to become refined and a little bit better, rejoicing in the fact that Heavenly Father will be able to use them in a unique way either in this life or the next because of what they went through, and rejoicing in that fact that Heavenly Father's love for them is so apparent as He is allowing and customizing all of this curriculum specifically for them. Trials are a sign of love, faith, and an infinite perspective of potential the Lord sees in you! Aren't trials just beautiful???!!!

Now, before you think I've gone crazy or perhaps grown in-compassionate, I will tell you that I'm going to have moments where I won't always feel this in my heart. I had a really good glimpse into an eternal perspective today! It was beautiful and priceless. We as mortals, in earthly bodies are constantly subject to the natural man, which means our faith and thoughts aren't consistently going to see everything clearly, but every once in awhile as we seek through study and prayer the plan Heavenly Father has for us, we can see just a little bit of what He sees. While I truly believe trials are beautiful, and I'm slightly tempted to ask for more because I love the growth that results from it, I know in the moment I'm given one I'll doubt and second guess. I know I'll have moments of hesitation where I wonder what the purpose is or if this pain is truly what love feels like. This moment I am writing this is a blessed one, it's a moment where I can see clearly and my perspective is eternal and in this moment I want to bear my testimony on the power of trials, and the goodness that always comes as a result.

Challenge: Write down every single trial you have ever experienced. Anything that broke your heart or brought you to your knees. 

Then find a quiet time when you can thank Heavenly Father for every single one of them. You may be able to all at once, or it may take some time till you can sincerely thank Him for your most difficult ones. But peace can enter your heart as you thank Him for these most unique but most incredible blessings He has ever offered us. 

Are you surprised by all that you have been through and overcome? I was. I still think I'm working on my list as new ones keep coming to mind. How empowering to see what you've been through and the strength that is within you because of these experiences.

Check out these talks here and here